How to talk to your kids about immigration

September 16, 2019

They were regular children. They doodled in class. They looked forward to their lunch break. They didn’t want any homework. And yet, they were different. They didn’t have any friends at school outside of each other, and even then, those relationships were unique. They spoke eight different languages among them and were all beginning English learners. Using funny gestures and expressions, they helped each other throughout the day.

Several of them had left their home country because of extreme poverty and violence. A few escaped persecution. Some of them had to move when their parents’ jobs transferred them to a U.S. office. Their parents all wanted the same thing: a good life for their children. It’s the story of millions of our neighbors, and yet few of us understand it.    

As students adjust to a new school year across the country, there is a good chance that your child has an immigrant student in his or her class. When there is a language or cultural barrier, it can be hard for children to know how to relate to an immigrant child. But the call to love their neighbor is the same when the neighbor was born in a different country as it is when the neighbor was born in the hospital 10 miles from your house (Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 10:18-19). 

As Christians, we have a responsibility to respond with love and compassion to immigrants. As Christian parents, we have the privilege to teach our children about immigration and God’s love for the nations. While having a foreigner as a classmate can create language and cultural barriers for everyone, it also provides a great opportunity to teach your child about the plight of the immigrant. What should we, as Christian parents, teach our children about immigration?

Immigration is as old as time. 

Our children need to know that immigration is not just a current event. With more immigrants in our country than ever before and the polarizing debate about immigration, it may seem like it is an issue of just our time. But immigration dates back to some of the earliest history of man and will exist until Jesus returns. Starting in Genesis, we find the records of God’s faithfulness to his people living in foreign lands. Abraham was commanded to leave behind his home to sojourn to Canaan. In Exodus, we read about the hardships and oppression of the Israelites as they lived in a country not their own. Ruth immigrated to Israel with Naomi and is part of the lineage of King David and Jesus. And Jesus and his family had to flee their home for his physical safety. God used immigration in biblical times, just as he does now. It is hard today, just like it always has been.

Immigration reminds us that kingdoms on earth will not remain.

The lives of immigrants can remind our families of the fleeting nature of life on earth. Immigrants often give up everything they know for a new life in a foreign land. They leave behind friends and family and the familiarity of life in their culture. If your children have only lived in one context, it may be easy for them to think they have ownership over their home, neighborhood, and community. Ultimately, though, this world is not ours. Earth, and everything in it, belongs to God. We are simply stewards of whatever God has given us.

We are not here to preserve our earthly kingdoms. Not only is everything constantly changing, but our time will pass, and our influence is short. Our focus should be on eternity. Christ will return, and until then, he is preparing a perfect home for those who are his. Our children must remember that the Kingdom of God is at hand—and that’s the only kingdom that will remain.

When we see people wearing clothing from other countries or hear a foreign language, we can remind our children that God loves people from every nation with his perfect love. 

God loves the nations.

When we have immigrant neighbors, we have access to a cross-cultural, international ministry in our own backyard. Your children have probably been singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” since they were little. Do they understand that God’s Kingdom includes people from

“every nation, from all tribes and people and languages” (Rev. 7:9)? When we see people wearing clothing from other countries or hear a foreign language, we can remind our children that God loves people from every nation with his perfect love. 

He calls his followers to the same love and commands the church to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). We can help our children reflect God’s love for people across the world by telling immigrants the saving truth of the gospel. And we can pray that our ministry to immigrants will become a global work as immigrants take the gospel to their families and countrymen. 

Regardless of how or why an immigrant came to our country, we are called to love. Regardless of our position on immigration, we are called to love. Sometimes relationships with immigrants can come easily, but even when they don’t, loved influenced by the cross “is welcoming the immigrant simply because they bear the image of God,” writes Brett McCracken.    

We can learn from different cultures.

People from other cultures and lands enrich our lives by teaching us new things. From my immigrant friends, I’ve learned about the value of family, respect for my elders, hospitality, perseverance, and more. Even learning words in a foreign language can give you a better understanding of an idea or emotion.

Our children will grow and gain from friendships with immigrants. They will have a better understanding of their family’s culture and the world. They will learn more about what it means to be human. They will grow in compassion and care. Loving the immigrant is not just about giving; we gain much from these relationships.

So much fear surrounds the debate around immigration. Take the mystery out of immigration, and help your whole family develop new friendships with foreigners. Go sit in immigrants’ homes and laugh through the awkwardness of learning about each other. Enjoy the food of the world and talk to your children about different cultures. Model to your children how to ask questions and learn. Invite immigrants into your home and life in order to minister to them for the sake of the gospel and their souls. 

Jessica Burke

Jessica Burke is married to her high school sweetheart, and they have four children. The Burkes lived in Skopje, Macedonia, as missionaries for three years before moving to North Carolina where Jessica’s husband is a chaplain at a local jail and a pastor. A former public school teacher, Jessica home educates her … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24